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Weekly Overview: Conference Addresses Sustainable Future for Farming

13 January 2014

GLOBAL - The theme of this year's Oxford Farming Conference, held in the UK university city earlier this week, was on the sustainability of farming - why it is so necessary and how to make progress in the right direction, writes Jackie Linden. We have several reports from the Conference, as well as the prospects for the Russian pig meat industry in 2014 and the latest news on ASF in Ukraine, PED in the US and PRRS vaccine development.

Among the many reports we have featured from the event, a new report for the Conference by consultancy, Bidwells, says that the UK farming sector has to be more open to changes in land management and must not solely consider that farmers must own the land they farm.

In opening the conference, co-chairman Adrian Ivory said that agriculture needs to play a part in the changing demographic of the world society that is seeing a larger population and changing eating habits.

Ireland's Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, told the Conference that in producing more food, the resources used to produce that food will have to be preserved so that more food can be produced in the future.

“We are not going to solve the global food security problems simply by producing more food,” he said, adding that we need to do much more on food waste in the developed world, which means managing diets and more education.

The Minister also called for a science-based approach to the intensification of food production in global agriculture.

The longer Europe continues to close its doors to genetic modification (GM), the greater risk that the rest of the world will pass it by.

UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the Oxford Farming Conference that regulated GM technology presents some of the biggest and "most exciting" opportunities for agriculture.

In Russia, the meat sector had a mixed year in 2013, with low margins in the first half of the year because of record feed prices and low prices for the main types of meat and in the second half of the year, a rise in margins as feed prices fell back.

Turning to other news, Ukraine has reported its first case of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country; a wild boar found dead on the border with Russia tested positive for the virus in the first week of January.

In the US, California and Wyoming have reported their first Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) virus-positive swine samples, bringing the total number of states affected to 22. The total number of swine farms and diagnostic case submissions with positive samples since mid-June 2013 now exceeds 6,500.

An international team of researchers based in Denmark is working to develop a new and more effective vaccine against Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). They say it is the most important contagious pig disease in the world and costs society enormous amounts as well as leading to poor animal welfare.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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